Saturday, April 30, 2011

The King of Orcs Has Passed Away

I just learned from Greg Svenson that Frederick "Fred" Paul Funk III passed away January 21, 2011. Fred Funk was part of Dave Arneson's original Blackmoor group. Not to be confused with the professional golfer, Funk played the Orc King, controlling the 10th level of the Blackmoor Dungeon. He is the first known player to have played an Orc in an RPG, but later the Half-Orc would become a popular race in D&D.

A friend of Greg Svenson since junior high school, it was Svenson who introduced Funk to Arneson's group. Later Fred Funk would also run his own Blackmoor games. Fred Funk worked as a police officer and later went into security management in Minnesota.

Frederick Funk  was born on May 12, 1950 and passed away on Friday, January 21, 2011. He was 60 years old.  Frederick was a resident of Albert Lea, Minnesota.

May he Rest in Peace.

A discussion of the memories of Fred Funk can be found here. (Comeback Inn registration required)
A discussion of Fred's World can be found here. (Comeback Inn registration required)


Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Oerth Journal

I was pleasantly surprised when it was recently announced that the Oerth Journal is being revived. The Oerth Journal is a Greyhawk periodicle, but should also be of interest to all Blackmoor fans. In particular, #5 which details the Greyhawk version of the Archbarony of Blackmoor, and #6 detailing Rob Kuntz recollections of Robilar and Mordenkeinen's adventure in the City of the Gods, where Dave Arneson also contributed with commentaries. In addition to these articles, the series include many gems and pieces, many of which were authored by notables from the industry's past and present.

The Greyhawk Grognard blog has a nice index of the Oerth Journals issue #1 to 25 which can be a useful starting point. A new website has been set up for the Oerth Jorunal here. You can also go directly to their downloads page.

Currently the new leadership of the Journal are looking for submissions. Find out more about this here.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Piazza is back!

As I reported on Tuesday, the Piazza (D&D Worlds Discussion) Forum, was temporarily shut down earlier this week due to Malware problems. However, the problems have now been taken care of and the Piazza is back up for discussion!

Go here, to visit the Piazza now!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blackmarsh is out!

If you haven't done so already, check out Rob Conley's Blackmarsh Setting! I mentioned this project a few weeks ago, and now you can get it too. You can read a review of it over at Zombiecowboy's Gameblog. Conley also has an interesting article about how Blackmarsh was published on his Bat in the Attic Blog. An interesting read if you are thinking about getting your own old school material published. Rob has done some great things in the past, like the excellent Points of Light setting, so give Blackmarsh a chance!


Crisis on the Piazza!

Just a quick notice. The forum known as the Piazza has been infected by Malware. To avoid getting your own computers infected, it is advisable to stay away from the site. I am working with the admin of the Piazza and the rest of the moderators to resolve the situation.

I will post more information on this topic here when I have more to report. Be assured, the people involved are determined not to let the Piazza die. The situation is pretty dire, but we will have a sollution for you. The Piazza is one of the best D&D forums out there and it must go on!

More updates on the Piazza Group on Facebook.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Blackmoor Studios at Full Sail University

As I reported in October, Full Sail University dedicated their new game studio to Dave Arneson and Blackmoor. Dave Arneson's daughter Malia Weinhagen and former TSR vice president “Uncle” Duke Seifried were among the guests at the dedication ceremony.  Here is a video from the event:

You can read more about the event here.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dave Arneson The Player

While Dave Arneson may have been the first Dungeon Master, he also enjoyed being on the other side of the DM's screen. As with most roleplayers, he started out as a player.

A formative moment in the life of young Dave Arneson was when his parents got him Avalon Hill's Gettysburg War Game, in the early 1960s. A few years later (1965?), he joined the Midwest Military Simulation Association which used to meet at Greg Scott's house. When the group became too big, the younger and more war game interested of the group, Including David A. Wesely, Dan Nicholson and Pete Gaylord split from the rest and began meeting at Arneson's house instead. 

So what was Arneson like as a player? Michael Mornard describes him like this:

"And yeah, Dave is a SUPER bad-ass player. You'd never know it talking to him out of context. Sweetest guy in the world. And then at the gaming table, he suddenly eats your spleen."

One of the more epic moments in Dave's career as a player was in David Wesely's Braunstein 4: Banana Republic, as Wesely recalls:

You may think of Dave Arneson as one of the godfathers of GMing, but even before that he was the godfather of players. He was, literally, the proto-player."

Over at the Comeback Inn Forum, Jeff Berry fondly remembers Dave playing Captain Harchar in Professor Phil Barker's Tekumel games:

"He was just one heck of a lot of fun; like a lot of his friends, he was very fast on his feet and very, very smart. He threw himself into any role that he took... Dave's showing up out at Phil's was always a good indicator that it was going to be a good night; we'd just hang on to the roller coaster, and watch the fun unfold."

If you have been asking yourself where Dave Arneson got all his ideas and creativity from then perhaps this is could be the answer. Creativty comes from passion, and we know that one of Dave's true passions was games, whether running them as a judge or DM, or enjoying them as a player.

Image source.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

3rd Annual David L. Arneson Maritime Miniatures Event Report

Last weekend was the time of the 3rd Annual David L. Arneson Maritime Miniatures Event. As I mentioned when I first announced this about a month ago, the event took place at the Fantasy Flight Games Event Center in Roseville, Minnesota. The miniatures game was announced to take place on Saturday, but as things developed, it ended up taking the entire weekend, featuring among other things Dave Arneson's character, Captain Harchar. At the Comeback Inn, Chirine Ba Kal reported the following from the event:

"We had eight players for the first game and six for the second, and lots of people who stopped by to have a look and talk about Dave and Harchar. Things ended about ten pm, and we loaded out by eleven pm.

I had a business breakfast meeting on Sunday, after which we did the load-in back into the game room, and then had another RPG session from two pm to six pm to resolve the Dire Peril from Friday's game. Dinner after that, and then back into the game room to tell gaming stories.

Clean-up this morning from six am to now (11:30 am), and that was that.

Everyone seemed to be having a great time, or that's what they told me; I'm way too close to the thing to be objective. The players, the people who dropped by, and the Event Center staff were all very impressed by the tables and the games, so I think we can call this one a success. We handed out a lot of flyers and took a lot of pictures, and I'll get those sorted out as soon as I can.

The planning for the next event is already started, and I'm both startled and delighted with the way that people here and outside the Twin Cities want to make this a bigger and better event; Dave had both a lot of friends and a lot of influence on our shared hobby and I'm touched at the happiness that we managed to generate this weekend. It was a lot of work, and I'm exhausted; next year, though, more people want to help out on the organization side of the event and I'll be able to concentrate on the game side of things."
More about this years event and future events will be revealed here


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Encounter Magazine #4 is out!

The latest issue of Encounter Magazine, featuring Classic D&D material was released this weekend. As usual Jesse Walker is doing a great job compiling high quality articles from a number of talented writers. I especially liked the adaptations of the World of the Dark Crystal for Classic D&D. Also, as a bonus, there is a quote from a Blackmoor module on page 1 of the pdf!

Encounter #4 can of course be downloaded for FREE from


Sunday, April 10, 2011

You are playing it wrong!

I have a confession to make: I have always been a bit reluctant to embrace the so-called OSR. Why? Because, frankly I have not always felt welcome among those who call themselves Old School gamers. On various forums and blogs there are always people trying to define what Old School gaming is about. And when I read some of these posts, I get them impression that they think that I am playing the game wrong.

The very first post on the Grognardia Blog had a statement which I liked:

"I don't think the history of roleplaying games since 1974 has been one of continual decline, but I do think a lot of good stuff has been lost or at least forgotten since then. One of the purposes of this blog is to discuss that good stuff and its importance for and applicability to the hobby today."
Since then I have seen Maliszewski use terms like the age of decadence on the period from 1981 and onwards. Was the initial mission statement forgotten? As someone who got into gaming 1980s, I find it hard to accept that everything that has shaped my experience with D&D as a result of decadence.

However I do like Grognardia's original idea of finding the good stuff that has been forgotten from ages past. If there is something looking into the original Blackmoor game has taught me, it is that the game cannot be played wrong. If you want to add space ships, dinosaurs or aliens in your game, then do it! Old School should not be about limitations but about freedom. As Gary Gygax said, "if you are having fun, you are doing it right."

Now this is the kind of Old School movement I can get behind. If Tavis is right, in his recent post on the Mule Abides blog,  about how the Old School movement is fighting for the DIY attitude and preserving the original miracle of gaming then that is an OSR that I can be a part of. If it OTOH, is an elitist club of grumpy (wanna-be) old men telling me how to play my games, then I have no interest in it.

Image Source:


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Rob S. Conley's Blackmarsh Setting

Blackmarsh Cover

According to Rob S. Conley's excellent blog, the Blackmarsh Setting is ready to be released through the Print on Demand company Lightning Source in about a week or so. Blackmoor fans will find many similarities between this setting and Arneson's world. The map for it was created through a process believed to be the same as what Arneson did when coming up with his map for Blackmoor. However, the author is quick to point out that:

"Blackmarsh is a homage to Dave Arneson's Blackmoor. But it is not a clone. The elements that it shares are; drawn from a map of holland, has a castle with a dungeon underneath where access is controlled by the elves, an elven forest, vikings roaming around, and there is a larger kingdom to the southeast. Beyond that background, the locales and details are unique to the Blackmarsh setting."

In additon to these elements, Blackmarsh also has the Mountain that Fell, a meteorite that fell from the sky, creating the Smoking Bay, a seeming parallell to the crashed spaceship of Blackmoor.  Conley has previously suggested that the Blackmarsh Setting could be connected to his other projects of the Southlands (From the Points of Light) and the Wild North (published in Fight On #3), both also having some connection to Blackmoor.

Castle Blackmarsh

With Code Monkey Press's Shaerdreath Setting and Dolmen Creative's Destiny6 game running into pre-production problems, could Blackmarsh be the first Arneson Tribute setting to actually get published? still, there is a fine line between homage and IP violation, and hopefully all involved in these projects will be careful.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Arneson's legacy in BECMI

When I talked about the Mirage Arcana podcast recently, Josh Sherrer asked me how I saw the relationship between OD&D and BECMI and whether BECMI could be seen as an evolution of OD&D or not.

As I replied to him this is a difficult question of course. Evolution implies improvement and I don't think I want to put myself in the position of having stated that D&D is better its predecessor. Still, both AD&D and the later versions of classic were a result of criticism that the rules in OD&D were confusing. However with any edition, there seems to be the contradiction that with every attempt at fixing a problem seems to create a new problem. Having said that, my favorite edition is BECMI. I am in general much more comfortable with 1980s material than what was made in the 1970s, possibly because I was introduced to the hobby in the 80s.

My opinion aside, I found a quote from Dragonsfoot by Frank Mentzer which may carry more weight on this subject:

"I had to stop reading Dragon magazine during the time that I was writing BECMI. Any & All ideas coming from other sources were forbidden; I had strict instructions to base D&D only on the previously published version (starting with OD&D) and, by immersing myself in that, to do the best I could in building upon that foundation and making an entire structure as close as possible to what Gygax & Arneson might have done had they continued to develop and expand it. I failed, of course. While BECMI is a reasonably coherent body of work (all the moreso since it was all from a single author, in stark contrast to TSR's usual design-by-committee approach of the '80s), my own tastes are reflected. (Especially in Immortals, which many find downright weird and generally unplayable, the latter due to their own prejudices imho.) Although Gary and I became fast friends by '83, I didn't get to know Dave until years later, for obvious reasons. Thus lacking half the salient input, the result is more a hybrid of Gary & I than of Gary & Dave. "

I always enjoy reading Frank's posts. I like how his intention indeed was to follow "what Gygax & Arneson might have done" and at the same time admitting that this was no easy task, especially since he didnt get to know Arneson until much later. It is interesting however that many of the elements found in BECMI, such as dominion rules, the mystic class and even Immortality had been touched upon in Arneson's campaign so perhaps Frank was more successful than he realized?


Monday, April 4, 2011

[Mystara] Playing Around with Photoshop

Today's entry is related to Mystara, my other favorite world besides Blackmoor. I always found the interior illustrations of the Wrath of the Immortals Rulebook to leave a little to be desired. So I began playing around on Photoshop to see if I could add some color to them. Here are a few early results:


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spelljammer Connection Found!

My fake Blackmoor Space cover, which I posted about a year ago, sparked quite a controversy. We all know Spelljammer is an acquired taste. However, when I made the cover I though of it just as an experiment. I had no idea that there actually was an official connection between the two settings.

My friend Big Mac over at the Piazza pointed me to the following:

A tradesman called The Happy Gauntlet launches from the [Blackmoor Civilization], its captain completing many voyages before stumbling into an illithid ambush. The entire crew, except for the captain's wife, Sharanger Szeltune, are destroyed by the mind flayer's mental powers. She is mortally wounded but is able to unleash powerful spells that allow her to take the helm and retreat. She then retreats to a safe world, lands her ship in a hidden location and transforms herself into an archlich.

The description above is paraphrased from the adventure "I must Go Up to the Stars Again" p 7-8 SJR1 Lost Ships. Granted, the adventure specifies that this is the Greyhawk version of the Blackmoor Civilization. On the other hand, was there really a Blackmoor Civlization on Greyhawk, or just a small region? This can be used or ignored as one wishes. It seems clear that the author, Ed Greenwood, wanted to give a nod to Arneson's setting at least.

Image Source


Friday, April 1, 2011

Mordenkainen's adventures in Blackmoor

Although Gary Gygax created Mordenkainen as his first D&D character as late as 1973, I'd like to imagine that the character he played in his first RPG adventure was a sort of Proto-Mordenkainen. This first game I am referring to is of course the Blackmoor game session of the winter of 1972, when Dave Arneson and David Megarry went to Lake Geneva, which I wrote about yesterday.

According to Rob Kuntz, this game included both dungeon adventure and outdoors exploration. From what Kuntz describes, tt seems like the experience must have made a considerable impression on Gary: 

"After the initial Blackmoor adventure events proceeded at a furious pace.  Phone calls to Dave.  Letters exchanged between the two.  During this time EGG noted that he had begun crafting a “dungeon” setting similar to Dave’s Blackmoor. About two weeks after this adventure, Gary handed me a slim manuscript which had been mailed to him by David.  I sat down and read for the first time the rules that David had used during it."

This was of course the beginning of D&D, but it was not the last time for Gygax and Kuntz to play with Arneson as the Dungeon Master. In 1976, those three sat down in TSR's Dungeon Hobby Shop. The two players used their legendary characters Mordenkainen and Robilar. By now, both characters were incredibly powerful and Dave had to limit the number of magical items they were allowed to bring to the table. Their destination was the City of the Gods. Dave Arneson's core group had already made several expeditions to this fabled city, most of which had been disasterous for the player characters. Kuntz and Gygax must have felt confident in their high level characters and played quite recklessly, as Dave Arneson later recalled:

"In this expedition there was a rather indiscriminate and widespread use of lightning bolts which could be observed from a multitude of points throughout the city. The use of such pyrotechnics from a very early stage in the adventure was risky to say the least and was one of the reasons that more and more wandering monsters were encountered thereafter. As the adventurers spent more and more time within the city confines they made little or no attempt to conceal themselves or their activities and so more roving creatures were drawn to their ramblings."
-Dave Arneson, Oerth Journal #6

This lack of caution nearly cost Robilar his life. Fortunately Mordenkainen was able to save his friend and the two were among the few to have survived exploring this deadly place. Details of this adventure can be found in Oerth Journal #6.

Image Source.


The Piazza - D&D Worlds Forum Celebrates 16 Years!

  One of my favourite places to talk about D&D is The  Piazza . I can't belive its been 16 years since fans created that forum. Peop...